Illinois Officials Announce Silver Cross Victory for Area Vets

[JOLIET, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today were joined by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11th) in celebrating a long-anticipated agreement to transform the emergency room facility at Joliet’s Silver Cross Hospital into a 60,000 square foot outpatient mega-clinic for area veterans.  Lawmakers began lobbying for the project three years ago after Silver Cross announced it would be moving its current operations to New Lenox.


“Local veterans and community members have been the driving force behind this idea to convert the existing Silver Cross Hospital and bring VA services right in to the heart of Will County.  Today, their hard work has paid off,” said Durbin.  “I thank my colleagues in Congress and Secretary Shinseki who worked with us for many years to bring this idea to fruition.  Soon, veterans in and around Joliet will no longer have to travel very far to access the high-quality care they have earned.  These brave men and women have sacrificed so much for our country, it is great news that we can deliver on one of our promises to them today.”


“It was a long road, and there were times I questioned whether this day would come, but it was well worth the effort,” said Biggert.  “I thank Silver Cross and the VA, and I’m especially thrilled to share the news with our local American Legion commanders, who first approached me with this idea in 2008.  This is a great day for all our local veterans, who will now be able to access high-quality care right here in Joliet.  These men and women have made so many sacrifices for us, and they deserve the best when it comes to getting the care and benefits that they have earned.”


Initially, the Veteran Administration’s (VA) expressed little interest in converting the facility, but local veterans groups and Illinois lawmakers successfully petitioned VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to open negotiations with Silver Cross.  Today, the Secretary formally approved the VA’s purchase of the 4.4 acre property from Silver Cross.  Currently, most collar county veterans must make the long commute to the Hines VA Hospital in Chicago for services not available at local clinics, and existing outpatient facilities have seen a dramatic rise in patient-loads over the last few years as more veterans return home from combat in the Middle East.   


“Silver Cross Hospital is pleased that the emergency department on the Joliet Campus will be put to good use as a Community Based Outpatient Center for veterans,” said Paul Pawlak, President and Chief Executive Officer of Silver Cross Hospital.  “Healthcare for veterans will be greatly improved and we applaud the Veteran Administration’s decision to relocate and expand the clinic.  I personally am delighted that Silver Cross could help make this dream come true for the many veterans in our community.”


Silver Cross is scheduled to vacate its campus in March 2012 and move its operations to a new facility in New Lenox.  Once the emergency room building is vacant, the VA will begin construction and conversion so that it’s equipped to offer veterans the specialized care they need. 


“I applaud the hard work of Congresswoman Biggert and dedication of Silver Cross, Hines, the VA and those veterans who worked so hard to expand health care options for our returning heroes,” said Kirk. 


“Today's news of the mega-clinic for veterans in Joliet's Silver Cross Hospital is truly outstanding,” said Kinzinger.  “This new facility will go a long way toward providing access to health care services to veterans in the Joliet and Will County region of Illinois.  As a veteran and Air National Guard pilot, I believe we must ensure our men and women receive quality and affordable medical care.  Over the last eight months my office has remained committed to this cause.  The Joliet facility will provide veterans who have made significant sacrifices for our freedom with access to the medical care they deserve.”


Services at the new location are expected to include women’s health, home based primary care, laboratory, mental health and social work, pharmacy, physical therapy and rehabilitation, retinal imaging, nutrition, geriatrics, and telehealth.  Additional space also will be available for other VA services. 


“We are committed to providing Veterans with healthcare services closer to where they live,” said Sharon Helman, Director of the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital, which will run the new clinic.  “This beautiful new clinic location will be ideal for us to reach more veterans with more of the services they need and have earned through their honorable service to our country.  It will improve access and convenience for our Veterans residing in Will, Grundy, Kendall and Kankakee Counties.”


“The Healthy Community Commission has worked for over three years to bring more services to the veteran’s in our community and today we learned that we have been successful”, said Margie Woods, Chair of the Healthy Community Commission at Silver Cross Hospital.  “We are thrilled that part of the Silver Cross campus in Joliet will become an outpatient health center.  I want to thank all the members of the Commission, the Buffalo soldiers, Commander Cannup, and Silver Cross Hospital for their hard work in making this happen!  Our veterans deserve the best healthcare and this new clinic will be fantastic - bringing more healthcare closer to their homes.”